Bold cow sculpture 'scares the children,' Markham, Ont., residents say

Context is key to the meaning of any piece of art, and in this quiet Toronto suburb, a life-sized chrome cow raised two storeys high on stilts is being interpreted as ugly, strange, and scary. “We don't like it. It scares the children,” resident Danny Dasilva said.

Suburban community not happy with 2-storey sculpture of famous cow ‘Charity’

Markham residents are not happy with a large sculpture of a cow that was recently installed in their neighbourhood. (Nick Boisvert/CBC)

Context is key to the meaning of any piece of art, and in this quiet Toronto suburb, a life-sized chrome cow raised two storeys high on stilts is being interpreted as ugly, strange, and scary.

"We don't like it. It scares the children," resident Danny Dasilva said.

The sculpture, titled Charity, Perpetuation of Perfection, is anything but perfect for people in the Cathedraltown subdivision near Highway 404 and Elgin Mills Road.

The artwork, titled 'Charity, Perpetuation of Perfection.' strikes some in the Cathedraltown neighbourhood as being out of place in a quiet suburb. (Nick Boisvert/CBC)

Many gathered this week to demand that the recently installed artwork be removed immediately.

For Dasilva, the cow's bold postmodernism clashes with the area's traditional suburban aesthetic.

"It's just very odd," he said. "We have a very austere look to the neighbourhood. A lack of embellishment is kind of the undertone of our design here."

For others, the lifelike bovine lacks taste.

"I think it's strange to see the cow's butt every morning," 11-year-old Charity Crescent resident Chloe told CBC News on Wednesday.

Some residents complain about the view they have of the lifelike cow thanks to it being raised on stilts. (Nick Boisvert/CBC)

Teresa Zhang also lives on the street. As a visual artist, she likes the artwork, but says it doesn't belong in the neighbourhood.

"It's actually quite beautiful. But it should be appreciated in a much bigger and more public area," Zhang said.

The sculpture commemorates Brookview Tony Charity, an award-winning Holstein cow that was raised on the nearby Romandale Farm.

The sculpture was donated to the community and will not cost the public anything, the local councillor said. (Nick Boisvert/CBC)

Residents have voiced safety concerns about children playing near the large sculpture, which is installed in a public park.

There are also questions being raised about a perceived lack of public consultation that went into the installation, which was approved by city council and the local councillor.

Councillor Alan Ho says a plan for public art in the area has been in place since 2005.

Markham councillor Alan Ho approved the artwork's location, but is now telling residents they should fight for its removal. (Nick Boisvert/CBC)

In 2015, after seeing designs for the cow, Markham's public art committee actually declined the donation of the sculpture, based on safety concerns, maintenance costs and location.

But Ho says the donor, real estate developer Helen Roman-Barber, insisted on its location.

"The donor was not convinced," Ho said in an interview.

After it was agreed that the donor would cover maintenance and installation costs, the committee, Ho and city council approved the sculpture for Charity Crescent.

The decision baffles residents like Danny Dasilva.

"The last thing that would cross my mind would be to raise a life-sized cow with chrome-like finish two storeys in the air and consider that proper," he said.

Now facing a backlash, Ho is telling his constituents to take their concerns to a September city council meeting and demand the sculpture that he approved be moved to another location.

"Everything is possible," Ho said.

About the Author

Trevor Dunn is an award-winning journalist with CBC Toronto. Since 2008 he's covered a variety of topics, ranging from local and national politics to technology on the South American countryside. Trevor is interested in uncovering news: real estate, crime, corruption, art, sports. Reach out to him. Se habla español.

With files from CBC Toronto's Nick Boisvert


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